GOSPEL: Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
At that time, John said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name,
and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.”
Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him.
There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name
who can at the same time speak ill of me.
For whoever is not against us is for us.
Anyone who gives you a cup of water to drink
because you belong to Christ,
amen, I say to you, will surely not lose his reward.
“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,
it would be better for him if a great millstone
were put around his neck
and he was thrown into the sea.
If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna,
into the unquenchable fire.
And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off.
It is better for you to enter into life crippled
than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.
Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye
than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.’”
The Gospel of the Lord / Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
This Sunday’s Gospel is divided into two parts. The First part relates to us that the apostle John approached Jesus complaining to him that they saw a man casting out demons in his name and that they tried to stop him because the man did not belong to their group. “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he was not following us.” At once, Jesus knew where the reaction was coming from. We know that Jesus had given the twelve an authority to cast out demons (Mk 3:14-15). There were times that they were successful in driving out demons (Mk 6:13). But it was also reported they were frustrated for having failed to cast out demons. Like in Mark 9:14-29 – A man had brought them his son who was possessed by an evil spirit, but the apostles were unable to cast it out. This must be the reason why the apostles, most especially John, reacted that way when they saw a man casting out demons in the name of Jesus and was successful. It is so clear to me, that the apostles were envious of that man. They thought that since they belong to the group formed by Jesus himself they have the monopoly of working in Jesus’ name. But immediately, Jesus turns the table on the disciples, as if telling them that there is a need for them to pay attention to their attitude. They were envious of the man whom they considered an outsider and therefore he didn’t have the right to use Jesus’ name. The apostles should realize that the spirit of God is not controlled by any single individual or group of individuals or even an institution, no one has the monopoly of truth and the spirit blows where it wills. And so Jesus told them to leave the man alone and not to prevent him. “For no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us.” Here Jesus is teaching the apostles and us about the dangers of the sin of envy. Pope Francs talked about the dangers of envy. He said that it is a sin which fosters bitterness against our brothers, stifles our joy and inhibits us from truly praising God. It is a destructive anxiety which tolerates that a brother or sister has something that I have not.”
Story ( Envy by Tonne)
In Greek history we read of a young man who so distinguished himself in the public games that his fellow citizens raised a statue in his honor, to keep fresh the memory of his victories.
This statue so excited the envy of another rival who had been defeated in the races, that one night he stole out under cover of darkness with the intention to destroy the statue. But he only nicked it slightly. He then gave it a final heave and it fell – on top of him…and killed him.
The lesson of the story: Envy always harms the one who is guilty of it. An envious person always emerged a loser.
And so what must we do? Well, counter envy with charity. That’s the only solution we have – Charity! The only way we can rejoice at the success and gifts of others is LOVE!
1 Corinthians 13: 4-7
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hope, always perseveres.
The second part of the Gospel should not be interpreted literally. We reflect on it with extra care. This particular text is a warning to those who would cause a scandal to a someone leading him/her to sin. “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea.” To sin is horrible but to lead another person to sin is infinitely worse. Our goal therefore as Christians is to be a role model to our brothers and sisters that they may follow.
Then Jesus further said, “If your hand or foot causes you to stumble, cut it off or if your eye causes you to stumble tear it out…” Again this should not be interpreted literally. Because if we do, since nobody’s perfect and we are all capable of committing sins, then many of us would be without hands, feet or eyes. Our Lord Jesus in a metaphorical manner just wanted to make a point. He wants us to take things seriously i.e. to do everything in our power to live a holy life for God. There is only one goal in life that is worth any sacrifice and that goal is to give ourselves over to God completely. In other words, whatever it is that gets in the way between ourselves and our following of God must be totally cut off. And that could mean anything, like our excessive love of selves, our love of power and fame, our love of influence, our love of wealth or that which become so part of our life but has become an obstacle to our following of the Lord. Living a holy life may never be that easy but it’s worth a sacrifice. If we could make a supreme sacrifice so as to avoid sin for the sake of our love of God, then we’ll experience in our life true joy and not just a fleeting and superficial one.